Today's Post is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author
Many artists feel that truly meaningful or 'pure' art is created solely for the purpose of expression and must not be influenced by any outside force. They argue that the inspiration must come from within and that any other influence or purpose behind the creation dilutes or contaminates its purpose. It is no longer pure art, but rather has stooped to the level of 'commercial art' at best.
Is it really so black and white? Can one make a living at art and create meaningful art which comes from within? Are all artists who market their work selling out to commercialism?
I believe that it is possible to stay true to oneself in the creation of art and make a living at it. There is a continuum rather than a fixed doorway. On one end are the purest of the purists (those I described above). On the other end are those who sell out their creativity to make a buck. (I don't include commercial artists or illustrators, because I believe that there is a huge difference between being a commercial artist and selling out to commercialism - but this is a different topic for another day). Each artist must decide for him or herself where that line is which, when crossed, prostitutes their creativity.
I don't claim to know all the answers, but rather I bring up a few things to ponder as you decide on your own career. This list is in no particular order and is not all inclusive.
- There is a difference between creating and promoting.
- Don't create artwork that you are not excited about.
- Be open to new ideas, though. Growth comes from trying new things.
- Do not promote or exhibit artwork that you are not excited about.
- I would rather miss an entry deadline to a show, than to submit a mediocre painting.
- Don't try to replicate someone else's successes.
- Don't try to duplicate your own successes. Learn from them and apply what you learned, but don't do the same painting over and over trying to glean more sales. If you have something additional to say about a specific theme or subject then explore that idea until exhausted. If you have nothing new to say, move on.
- Never be content with your current level. Always strive to improve your skills.
- Find markets for your work. Don't alter your work for the market.
- Be selective in which shows, galleries, etc. you chose to exhibit. A venue which may be right for one artist may be wrong for you.
- Commissions are difficult. Apply principles 2 and 3 above to determine whether or not to accept a commission. Don't simply say 'no' because the idea is not solely yours. Don't simply say 'yes' to have a guaranteed sale. Consider the request and discuss with the client their expectations and yours. Commissions can be very fulfilling if done in the right way. Be open but selective.
- Keep your prices in line with the market. Some artists over price while some under price their work.
- Don't keep prices the same for too long. Collectors want to know that what they have purchased was a good investment. If they see that your prices have increased over the years, this confirms that they made a good decision. (Be careful not to artificially inflate prices, though). They will be more willing to continue buying your work.
- However, don't encourage purchasing on investment. The collectors must first want to live with the painting.
- There are hundreds of marketing techniques and strategies, choose those that work for you.
- Determine what you are trying to say with your art. What is your motivation? Why do you create? Is there a common theme to all of your work (regardless of how diverse it may appear)? This should be what your promotional and marketing strategies are developed around.
I could go on, but I hope this list gets you thinking. Be true to yourself and your art, but don't be afraid to find ways to promote and sell it. Even if you rely on galleries to sell your work, there is a lot you can do to develop your reputation and make your work more sought after.
PS. Keep in mind that some of history's greatest works of art were commissioned. Think of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Sargent, Rodin, and Dixon to name only a few. It is possible to create great art even if the market becomes a part of the equation.
[Editor's Note: This is a common meme among artists the "pure" vs. "commercial" debate. If you want to discuss/debate it more, in "real time" join the discussion with us over on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/clintavo ]